It would appear that vegetarian diets represent a healthy alternative to modern American eating patterns. While this is often the case, there are
notable exceptions; in fact, some plant-based diets may actually do more harm than good.
A Wealth of Data
This notion comes courtesy of research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The report based its findings on data gathered by Nurses’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study 2, along
with the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Combined, these three sources allowed the researchers to review data from over 200,000 people.
Finding the Right Approach
The good news is that a association was observed between plant-based diets and a lower likelihood of heart disease. More well-rounded plant-based diets – specifically, those emphasizing fruits, veggies and whole grains – appeared to be especially helpful in this regard.
The story was quite different when it came to other plant-heavy diets, namely those that largely consisted of refined grains, potatoes and sweetened beverages. According to lead researcher Ambika Satija, these types of diets could be harmful to the heart.
“When we examined the associations of the three food categories with heart disease risk, we found that healthy plant foods were associated with lower risk, whereas less healthy plant foods and animal foods were associated with higher risk,” stated Satija. “It’s apparent that there is a wide variation in the nutritional quality of plant foods, making it crucial to take into consideration the quality of foods in a plant-based diet.”
Meat, Veggies and Grains
For their report, the researchers divided “plant diets” into three subsections:
- Plant-based diets that included all types of plant foods, along with relatively low amounts of meat.
- Plant-based diets that heavily featured unhealthy fare, such as refined grains
- Plant-based diets that were centered around items like fruits, veggies and whole grains